Most recruiters will tell you that being asked for your references is a good sign when you’re searching for a job. So, just as you should always have your resume ready, you should always have your references ready. Companies still ask for them.
It might be tempting to think that references aren’t important because a reference should say that an individual is nothing short of perfect. However, in an interview on HRBartender.com, Master Resume Writer Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter encourages us to think of the purpose of a reference differently:
“Yes, references are fundamental to the career interview and hiring process. A solid reference will present meaty evidence of why/how you performed your job well and added value to the company, the leadership, your team, to individual projects and more. References that provide testimony with teeth to them versus simply adjectival proclamations of your amazing, perfect ways are what matter, though. Painting you as faultless is not the objective of a strong, value-focused reference.”
How to Create Your List of Job References
When putting together your job references, here are three things to consider:
1. References should be people you’ve worked with. Your job references should include managers and colleagues. You might want to use different individuals based on the jobs you’re applying for. For instance, certain colleagues might be able to share your ability to work in a collaborative team environment and others can share your ability to work well independently.
Also, when thinking about “work”, consider using people you’ve worked with on large scale volunteer projects as references. For example, if you volunteered on a conference team with annual budgets in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The individuals you worked with would be able to speak to your ability to manage a large budget and make sound financial decisions. They would be ideal references.
2. Keep your job references current. There are a couple of aspects to keeping references current. First, references from today are better than references from a decade ago. That’s not to say that older references aren’t valuable. Just decide the role they play in presenting your strengths.
Next, when you start interviewing, let your references know so they can support you. And absolutely, positively tell your references whenever you give their name to a prospective employer. You might not know exactly who is going to call, but at least give them the company’s name.
3. Clarify any mistakes in job reference contact info. This is the other reason you want to keep your references current. Stay in touch with references so you have their most current contact information. And, if for some reason, you give the wrong information to a recruiter, be sure to correct it. It can happen. A reference might change their cell phone number after you’ve given it to a recruiter. Just contact the recruiter and explain the situation. Recruiters are reasonable people.
That being said, it probably wouldn’t reflect well on you if you submit your job references and then call a recruiter back to change a lot of contact information. It might send the message that you haven’t been staying in touch with your references.
References Play an Important Role in Your Job Search
The people that you ask to be your job references should know your strengths and be willing to talk about them. They should be open to having their contact information provided to companies and receiving calls about you. The better individuals are about compiling and managing their job references, the more those references can help you get a job. And that’s the whole point of having references in the first place.